That little Iraqi War thing was the first time the American military got to play with GPS on a large scale. Iraqi tank corps were ready….as long as it came down the road. Out in the middle of the trackless desert, it’s easy to get lost. GPS enabled American tanks to take off from Uncle Ibn Saud’s pool and spa, travel across hundreds of miles of open desert with no signposts, and still arrive at Saddam Hussein’s garden within a couple of yards.
One night, a trio of American tanks (one mission commander and two wingmen) were moving forward. They came to the crest of a small hill, near a bunker, spotted earlier by recon aircraft. At the bottom of a small, bowl-like valley was a tank laager – 22 Iraqi battle tanks, parked in a rough circle, facing outward, in front of the bunker.
With 3 against 22, they might have inflicted serious damage, but with the possibility of losing one or more American tanks. Wars and battles are not won by getting killed. The commanding officer was considering calling in the warplanes, but that would give up the glory to the flyboys, and dawn was fast approaching. By the time the bombs and rockets arrived, these guys could be long gone.
Suddenly, one of the tankers had an inspiration. Abrams tanks can do over 60MPH on flat ground. As the first Iraqis started exiting the bunker, there was no time to explain, or receive permission. He just accelerated down the slope and dashed inside the ring of tanks, where he roared around a couple of times, raising a huge cloud of dust.
He now had the advantage. Everything he saw that moved, was a target, while the Iraqis couldn’t fire, for fear of hitting their friends. Some of them scrambled for their tanks, but smashed into, and blocked others. In the American tank, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Target – fire – boom. Target – fire – boom. Target – fire – boom. Soft target – co-ax machinegun. Splash one rag-head.
Suddenly in the night-vision screen, they saw a soldier running from the bunker, readying an RPG – a rocket-propelled-grenade. It’s possible that the grenade might have just clanged off the tank’s armor, but it’s better not to find out. Too quick to activate the machinegun, the gunner simply fired the main cannon.
Rags fluttered to the ground. The 40-pound warhead, travelling at 2800 feet per second passed right through him, striking an already damaged tank. The hydrostatic shock left a fine pink mist settling to the sand.
The other two Americans watched in awe and wonder. After about five minutes, everything got quiet. Final score: USA-22 – Iraq-0! One lone American tank had destroyed 22 Iraqi tanks, and heavily damaged the bunker.
Proudly, the lone wolf pranced back to the pack with no more than a few dings and scratches from bumping into, what was now, a pile of garbage. Essentially, the mission Commander told him, “I understand the need for quick action, but if you ever scare me like that again, I will shoot you myself. By the way, here’s a commendation, and maybe a little medal.”
Technology, ingenuity and independent thinking, as well as grit and guts, prevented what might have become a nasty, protracted war, and turned it into more of a police action, with relatively few American casualties. The GroPos – ground-pounding infantry – are the ones who write the final chapter, but ya gotta love the tankers who clear the roads so that they can get there, and get the job done. Salute! 😎